Are You a Mosquito Magnet?
Dr. Joan Bradshaw
University of Florida IFAS Extension
Citrus County Extension Service
3650 West Sovereign Path, Suite 1, Lecanto, FL 34461
Thomas Jefferson's promise that we're all
created equal is admirable but as we gather
around the barbecue this summer some of us
get more attention than others from those
pesky skeeters. As you swat madly at the
pests, you notice that others seem
completely unfazed. Could it be that
mosquitoes prefer to bite some people over
According to experts, mosquitoes do exhibit blood-sucking preferences. "One in 10
people are highly attractive to mosquitoes," reports Jerry Butler, PhD, professor
emeritus at the University of Florida. Female mosquitoes need human blood to
develop fertile eggs. And apparently, not just anyone's will do.
Although researchers have yet to pinpoint what mosquitoes consider an ideal
human flesh, there is research being conducted on what compounds and odors
people exude that might be attractive to mosquitoes. Scientists do know that
genetics account for a whopping 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites.
They've also identified certain elements of our body chemistry that, when found in
excess on the skin's surface, make mosquitoes swarm closer.
Mosquitoes have been around for 170 million years and with more than 175 known
species in the U.S., these shrewd summertime pests clearly aren't going to
disappear any time soon. But you can minimize their impact. The best ways to
avoid mosquito bites are to avoid infested areas, wear protective clothing, and wear
Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites
When possible, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors.
Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent
containing permethrin or DEET will give extra protection. Don't apply repellents
containing permethrin directly to skin. Do not spray repellent containing DEET on
the skin under your clothing.
Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours
The hours from dusk to dawn are peak mosquito biting times for many species of
mosquitoes. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing during evening
and early morning -- or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.
What Kind Of Mosquito Repellents Are Available?
Repellents that are currently available are either synthetic chemicals, such as DEET,
or plant derived chemicals such as Citronella. Various formulations of these
repellents are available that differ in the amount of active ingredient, which is the
substance that actually repels the mosquito. These products are available as
sprays, wipe-on's, sticks, foams, and lotions.
University of Florida entomologist, Dr. Jerry Butler, has developed a new insect
repellant made from geraniol, a naturally occurring oil derived from lemongrass and
other plants. He says its an alternative to DEET. It repels biting insects and ticks
and is safer to use than DEET, which has been blamed for toxicity problems in
children and some adults. Patented by the University of Florida, the formula is
licensed to Naturale Ltd. and marketed under the registered trademarks
MosquitoSafe, TickSafe and FireAntSafe.
It is very important to read the label before using any mosquito repellent and
remember the following:
Both N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide and N,N-diemethylbenzamide are chemical names
for DEET; the label may or may not have the word "DEET" on it.
There are different recommendations for frequency of application for different
repellents; do not over apply.
Check the container for an EPA-approved label and registration number; never
use a repellent that has not been approved for use by the EPA.
Make sure that the repellent label lists the insect that you need to repel; some
repellents are not formulated for certain insects
Keep in mind that repellents do not protect all users equally. The effectiveness of a
repellent depends on the mosquito species that is biting as well as the age, sex,
level of activity, and attractiveness of the human using the repellent. Consider the
following when choosing a repellent:
Are you in an area where you know that mosquito-borne diseases are present?
What is the mosquito population like? (A lot of bites expected? Or occasional
Will time spent outdoors at night be longer than an hour?
Will you be around heavily vegetated, humid areas during the day?
What types of activities are going on: exercising, running, playing sports, etc.?
Is the humidity and temperature high?
Prior to using any products, carefully READ THE LABEL and always follow the label
directions. For more information, call Citrus County Extension at 352-527-5700.
Citrus County Extension links the public with the University of Florida/IFAS’
knowledge, research, and resources to address youth, family, community, and
agricultural needs. All programs and related activities sponsored for, or assisted
by, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are open to all persons without
discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual
orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations, genetic
information and veteran status as protected under the Vietnam Era Veterans’
Readjustment Assistance Act.
Citrus County—Providing Solutions for your Life
Dr. Joan Bradshaw is Director of Citrus County Extension and the natural resource
conservation faculty for specialized programs in Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and
Sumter County University of Florida/IFAS Extension Service.